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Quantitative vs. Qualitative Research Method Issues. Marian Ford Erin Gonzales November 2, 2010. Outline. Introduction – How to choose? Quantitative Research Disadvantages vs. Advantages Qualitative Research Disadvantages vs. Advantages History and Trends Mixed-Methods

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Quantitative vs qualitative research method issues

Quantitative vs. QualitativeResearch Method Issues

Marian Ford

Erin Gonzales

November 2, 2010


  • Introduction – How to choose?

  • Quantitative Research

    • Disadvantages vs. Advantages

  • Qualitative Research

    • Disadvantages vs. Advantages

  • History and Trends

  • Mixed-Methods

  • So which is better?

Factors to consider
Factors to consider

  • Field of study

  • Nature of study

  • Purpose of the study

  • Population of the study

  • Tools readily available

    • Method and design

    • Instrument

  • Amount of human interaction or characteristics to be studied

  • Desired implications and results


  • Positivist thought – can be verified by observation and experimentation

  • Distribution of variables that can be generalized to entire population

  • Less interaction between researcher and subjects – more objectivity

  • Four categories:

    • Descriptive design

    • Correlation

    • Casual comparative

    • Quasi-experimental


  • Should only be used if data can be measured by numbers, results quantified

  • Instrument or method chosen is subjective and research is dependent upon tool chosen

  • Lack of independent thought by researcher when dependent on instrument or mathematics used to extract or evaluate data

  • Individuals’ decisions not evaluated based on their culture or social interactions

  • Decisions made without regard to individual human thought or choice to predict behavior

  • All individuals are measured same way

    • Experiences

    • Backgrounds

    • Intelligence

    • Ability to change decisions at any given point in time

    • Independent though


  • Inefficient for formulating higher education planning, policy and decision making

  • Unable to create procedures based on results

  • Groups individuals as unemotional subjects (Keller, 1998)

    • Social influences of individuals needed

    • Limitations on generalizability

    • Particular point in time; no account for change of mind


  • Observations are used throughout studies

  • Formulating hypotheses allows for speculation about outcomes; applicable instrument

  • Safeguards used to minimize or eliminate bias

  • Predicts correlation between objects

  • Systematic data collection and analysis

  • Generalizable to other institutions for further research

  • Recognized criteria for assessment and validity

  • More research conducted by this method


  • Investigates individual behaviors and characteristics to understand cause and solve issues

  • Inductive process to explore new perspectives on previously studied information not completely understood

  • Involvement of human subjects; dependent on interaction

  • Less generalizable to greater population

  • More accurate description of individuals and groups

  • Multiple types:

    • Interviews

    • Focus groups

    • Case studies

    • Ethnographic studies


  • Strong dependency on sample population

    • Access

    • Honest and valid information

  • Time and resources needed for collection and analysis is intensive

  • Lack of objectivity and bias by researcher

    • Inferences made

    • Incorrect conclusions

  • Convenience sampling

  • Lack of training or knowledge about methodology

  • Lack of ability to produce and comprehend research

  • Not recognized


  • Helps explain relationships in detail; individualistic

  • Can help validate quantitative findings by further investigation

  • Can help close gap between research and practice

    • Needs of individuals in institutions

    • Study problems more relevant to policy makers

  • Less dependent on instrument

  • Can bring change in institutions and society

    • In-depth

    • Personalized

    • Examines specific issues

History and trends
History and Trends

  • Study of five leading higher education journals showed higher volume of quantitative methods vs. qualitative in 1986 and 1989

  • Shift has reported increase in qualitative methods in organization and vocational psychology

    • 40-50 percent decrease in 1983-1988 of quantitative methods

    • 10 percent decrease in 1996-1999

    • Qualitative methods increased from 15-18 percent of studies to 30-40 percent of studies

History and trends1
History and Trends

  • Discovery of Grounded Theory: Barney Glaser

    • Legitimized alternative methods and research designs

    • Emphasized the creation of theory out of qualitative data

    • No longer belief that research was solely to produce scientific knowledge

  • Comparative assessment for research still does not exists

How do you measure what s best
How do you measure what’s best?

  • Need a standard of measurement to determine quality

  • Guidelines are needed to recognize validity of results

  • Barriers of many different approaches and types of research methods

  • Two methods can provide complementary results

    • Qualitative:

      • Rich description of issues in field

      • Lay groundwork for quantitative studies

    • Quantitative

      • Provides accurate data collection and analysis and utilization